One of the reasons the relationship between Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez garnered so much attention, aside from their respective levels of popularity, is that, as a couple, they seemed to make a lot of sense. Both were extremely famous, very powerful in their chosen fields, and exceedingly ambitious. She was the actor-singer-dancer-producer workaholic with her fingers in every pie. He was the former baseball pro frequently referred to as one of the greats who had spun post-retirement gold (and steroids-related controversies) with savvy investments and media machinations. Together, they graced red carpets and announced flashy joint projects. He even seemed delighted to be her plus one when the spotlight shone brighter on her. That’s not to say that their split shocked many, even their devoted fans. The news came after claims that Rodriguez had an affair with a reality TV star. Then, he and Lopez released a statement saying they were working through some stuff, and everyone knew the writing was on the wall weeks before they officially pulled the trigger with a bland joint statement. No drama, they promised. They were just better as friends and still loved one another deeply. End of story. Everyone moves on now, right? Well…
Following their official split, it didn’t take long for the gossip machine to revive the classic tale of Bennifer 1.0. Speculation swirled that Lopez had reunited with her ex-fiancé Ben Affleck, himself newly single following a split from Ana de Armas. Soon, images emerged, and there seemed to be confirmation that one of the true celebrity power couples of the early 2000s was back on. The famous pairing that defined the entire concept of the power couple and made the portmanteau an expected part of the cycle was together once more. Older, maybe wiser, and primed for the entertainment machine of 2021. Fans were surprisingly amped up for this potential reunification of celebrity legend, an act of nostalgia that required quite a bit of historical rewriting but one that still made sense given where both figures are right now in their lives and careers.
Rodriguez does not seem to be taking it well. Their split statement said that the pair realized they worked better as friends than a couple, but he didn’t seem to get the memo as he shared a cringey video of his collection of romantic photographs with Lopez. Last week, he posted an image of himself having dinner with his daughters. There were three empty spaces at the table, presumably for Lopez and her kids. Was it cringe-inducing? Oh yes, but beneath that instinctive response of squirming was a jolt of concern. Not for Rodriguez so much as the narrative he was pushing. The image was one of an ‘incomplete’ family, as though Lopez had torn them in half by leaving with her twins. It’s dirty play disguised as niceness, maybe one of celeb PR’s pettiest of tactics. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect from some Bravo reality TV regulars and not a bona fide A-Lister surrounded by enough well-paid people to lay out a smarter path toward public redemption. To try this against Jennifer freaking Lopez? Oh, honey…
Lainey Lui of LaineyGossip frequently notes that Lopez seems to be in love with love, and that she holds no grudges when her romances end. She never ran to the tabloids to slag off Ben Affleck for ditching her a week before their wedding. She doesn’t play up her heartbreak for musical inspiration or lament her lack of a happy-ever-after on talk shows. Whenever she’s asked about Affleck, Mark Anthony, Cris Judd, P. Diddy, or any man she’s ever been connected to, she’s nothing but effusive in her praise. Besides, she doesn’t have time to ask for pity from the public. A near-legendary workaholic, Lopez’s professional life is like her love life: she just keeps going. I don’t say that to knock her. I think it’s pretty admirable that she’s so committed to getting on with things, particularly given the massive public backlash she’s faced over the decades. When she was with Affleck the first time around, the press descended into some seriously iffy rhetoric to describe them, and mostly, she was positioned as the ‘fiery Latina diva’ who was somehow dragging the poor all-American Oscar winner into the gutter. Yet, when they broke up, the split impacted her public image way less than it did Affleck. She wasn’t bothered by Gigli.
Frankly, Rodriguez thinking he can take on Lopez in the media game is almost quaint. It’s like bringing a knife to a nuke fight. She’s the queen of this, a woman who has withstood every cheap jab or round of backlash flung her way. If Rodriguez wants to get dirty or petty, he shouldn’t expect her to fire back. That’s not her style and frankly, it’s beneath her. He’s the one who allegedly cheated, after all. He can try to mine the Affleck news for some sort of sympathy, but that would require overlooking how weirdly joyous fans are to see this nostalgic reunion, and how much more sympathy general audiences have for Affleck over him.
Rodriguez came to the Lopez relationship with a massive amount of baggage. His use of performance-enhancing drugs during his pro-baseball career remains immensely controversial and will forever place an asterisk next to his achievements. His first wife, Cynthia Scurtis, filed for divorce in 2008 and cited ‘emotional abandonment’ of her and her children as the reason. She also alleged multiple extra-marital affairs and ‘other marital misconduct’ by Rodriguez. Earlier this year, he was accused of racketeering and civil theft, related to a legal war he’s been embroiled in with his ex-wife’s younger brother. He’s worked overtime to reinvent himself as an entrepreneur with a confident public image devoid of the d**k-strutting ego he possessed as a baseball player. Being Mr. Lopez was a big part of that. He talked excitedly about her work ethic and their plans for long-term collaborations. At least in public, he seemed super amped to be the quieter half of a new power couple. Lopez campaigned for an Oscar for Hustlers and he took pictures of her on the red carpet. Lopez prepared to perform at the Super Bowl Halftime Show and he gushed about her talents. Lopez sang at the Biden inauguration and he played the role of the plus-one. It was a startling contrast to his sports days and a convenient change of direction from the troubles surrounding his first marriage. Was Lopez supposed to crown his full redemption? Why would she need that kind of pressure?
It remains to be seen if Rodriguez will fight dirty with the split. The sporadically reliable anonymous gossip chatter over on Deuxmoi seems convinced that he will, and that the timing of the Affleck news will come into play. If he does then don’t expect Lopez to respond. She helped to polish his persona for a new age and that should be enough for him. She’ll get on with life as she always has. They do say that the best revenge is living well.
Header Image Source: Mike Coppola // Getty Images for Turner